Srinagar: The new age militancy is a passe in Kashmir but that is no good news for security forces.
The year 2021 saw the militants shunning the Burhan Wani model of militancy, or the new-age militancy as it was called, and taking the battle to urban centres, giving sleepless nights to security forces.
The Burhan model marked a new trend where new recruits would announce their baptism into militancy by releasing their gun-wielding pictures without any masks, employing social media to the hilt, in stark comparison to earlier times when they would do so secretly.
The new breed of militants now again prefers to be secretive. They remain away from social media and are increasingly resorting to lone-wolf attacks to keep the pot of militancy boiling.
As 2021 comes to a close, the graph of militancy-related violence in Kashmir has seen a decline but the “old” tactics are giving forces no less trouble.
The first major shift this year was that the militants’ focus shifted from South Kashmir to Srinagar, which was declared a militancy free zone in late 2020.
Srinagar saw a series of encounters and targeted killings that kept the police and other security agencies on tenterhooks. The Union Home Ministry had to dispatch top security and intelligence officers to ensure calm.
In November, the Central government sent an additional 5,000 security personnel into the Valley to keep the situation under control.
The brain behind the shifting of the militant base from south to Srinagar is “The Resistance Force (TRF)” commander Abass Sheikh, a south Kashmir resident who was shot dead in the city in August. The TRF, police claim, is a shadow group of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
Police claim that Abbas revived militancy in Srinagar before his death. One of his recruits, Mehran, a resident of the old city, was blamed by the police for many targeted killings including that of school Principal Supinder Kour, teacher Deepak Chand and probationary J&K Police Sub Inspector Arshid Ahmad Mir in Srinagar.
Mehran was killed in November.
The militants from south Kashmir have also been operating in Srinagar where they are lost in a maze of lanes and bylanes.
Around 40 people, including 11 policemen and 20 militants, were killed this year in the city in a series of gunfights and targeted shootings.
The other shift in the militancy is that the police is the prime target of the militants. While most policemen killed were unarmed, the militants carried out a deadly attack on a police bus in December on the city’s outskirts that left three policemen dead and nearly a dozen injured.
Former J&K Director General of Police Shesh Paul Vaid said there is a clear change in the strategy of militancy, with Srinagar the new focus and police the main target.
“There is a visible change in their strategy. They (Pakistan) keep on changing strategies,” Vaid told UNI.
Out of 28 security personnel killed in Kashmir this year, 20 are from the police which clearly indicates that the police were bearing the brunt.
The number of police casualties has been on the rise over the last few years.
Of the 83 security personnel killed in 2019, only 11 belonged to J&K Police. Similarly, among the 60 security personnel killed in 2020, 16 personnel were from J&K Police.
While 160 militants were killed in Kashmir this year, nearly 90 per cent were locals. Many top commanders were killed in gunfights in intelligence-based operations this year.
The number of infiltrators who managed to sneak in this year is around 50. Many among them were killed in gunfights.
The good thing to happen this year was the ceasefire along the Line of Control that brought cheers to the people of J&K. The ceasefire has been in place since February and the border residents pray that this should continue.